Obama’s Folly? Wanting A Better Approach

imageEvery day without cessation the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) hammers away at Obama. His big, big crime or failure is that he thinks enough American blood has been shed in trying to bring peace to the Middle East. A WSJ op-ed chastises him for “refusing to commit any ground forces” to Iraq (haven’t we already done that before?); complains he “refused to send a peacekeeping force” to Libya (more troops) and for us not to get down and dirty in a war with Iran. The WSJ drum beat for war is is shocking.

An article in the WSJ on Thursday, March 26, 2015, by Max Boot a senior fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations is an example of this.  It’s behind a pay wall. I’ll put some of the complaints he makes in quotes.

He starts with 3 points: first Obama’s withdrawal of forces from Iraq and Afghanistan (omitting to mention it was Bush’s plan to get them out of Iraq); next Obama is silent about Iran’s “power grab” in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon (failing to mention IS); and finally, Obama’s dislike of Netanyahu (Boot will explain Netanyahu didn’t mean it when he said there would be no Palestinian state).

Boot writes that Obama’s actions show a realignment in American policy, “The president is pulling America back from the leading military role it has played in the Middle East since 1979 . . . . He is trying to transform Iran from an enemy to a friend.” 

According to Boot this is something bad. I’d suggest we look back over that period of time. It would seem more appropriate to say, “it’s about time someone had enough sense to see our policy since 1979 has been not working and perhaps it is time to change it.” Or to use the often heard political expression: “are we better off in the Middle East now than we were in 1979.”

Boot later states: “successive U.S. presidents have backed Israel and Sunni allies, notably Saudi Arabia. Mr. Obama is bucking this foreign-policy consensus.”  Again Mr. Boot want us to recoil in horror at the idea that Obama is hoping to change past policies and wants to try something new unlike those who want to continue to muddle along.

Obama has done lots of things I don’t like. To suggest his seeking of a peaceful route out of the 35 years of walking down a wrong path that has led to the Middle East we see today is not one of them. If Mr. Boot could only point to some one thing, yes only one, that our policy since 1979 has accomplished that benefited my country I might listen to him. He can’t. He can only laments that we won’t continue plodding along with this losing strategy. He won’t accept it hasn’t worked. It has only brought America toil and sorrow.

We have to consider what our foreign policy in the Middle East has brought us since 1979. Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982 and stayed there until 1985. The U.S. under President Reagan came in to help bring peace. On October 23, 1983, 220 Marines and 79 other Americans and allies were killed in a Beirut bombing. Thereafter Hezbollah surfaced and shortly after that Hamas. Reagan’s policies insured ongoing hostilities between Iran and the U.S.

After that there was the First Intifada from 1986 to 1993, an uprising by the Palestinians against Israel rule. During that time and afterwards the U.S. tried to bring peace with the Madrid Conference (1991). the Oslo Accords (1993-1995), the Wye River Memorandum (1998), the Camp David Summit (2000), Roadmap for Peace (2002), etc.

Meanwhile we were involved in the Gulf War (1990-1990), the Taliban was formed (1990) and took over Afghanistan (1996); Osama bin Laden moved to Afghanistan (1996) and al Qaeda rose up and declared war on the U.S. Attacks on American embassies in Africa and a Navy ship as well as the World Trade Center happened until the horror of 9/11/2001.

Thereafter we invaded Afghanistan. And then Iraq which we have seen become a Shiite state with strong ties to Iran; we’ve seen the rise of the particularly barbaric IS, and the ongoing war and destruction of Syria and the ongoing madness in Libya. In 2014 we saw Israel attack Gaza and increase its grab of land on the West Bank. This year we’ve seen Yemen fall.

That is what our policy has  brought about since 1979. The WSJ seems to think we should continue with it. How long do we persist in a policy that has brought about one failure after another? How could anyone think continuing this bankrupt policy is a good idea?

We finally have a president who looks at the dismal history over the past 35 years and wants to do something different. He’d like to bring us a little peace. He is being condemned for wanting to try to change. Makes no sense to me.


  1. What are known as Arabic numerals, were first developed in India.
    The Shia of Lebanon are organized into a militia. Militias have strengths, and, weaknesses. When militias fight on their home ground they are very formidable, but, away from home, militias don’t perform as well. Juju Jaaffar, a member of the Jaafar crime tribe militia, and, veteran of street battles in Baalbak with Hezbollah, and, Syrian troops, told me that when defending the tribal turf, their hood, his men fought like tigers because their wives, sisters, grannies, fathers, and, friends, were all watching, and, a man’s pride would not allow him to show fear, but, once away from home, while making a raid or incursion into alien territory, it was perfectly kosher to bug out at the first reverse. The genius, so far, of Qassem Suliemani, is that he has found a method to use militia forces in expeditionary roles. The evolution of Lebanese Hezbollah from a local militia into exportable hard-fighting infantry, occurred under the tutelage of Suleimani. He’s running the battle in Tikrit, at the moment. That campaign will be another test of his ideas. The Shia militias will have to maintain their cohesion, discipline, and, esprit, in alien Sunni territory.

    As far as, Arabs not being good fighters, that’s ridiculous. When properly trained, and, motivated, they are as salty as any other troops. Didn’t the Iraqi Arabs fight the US into a state of moral exhaustion, rather recently? Nobody is in a hurry to go back, except the politicians.

  2. How can you give credit to Obama for anything but the calamitous circumstances that now exists in the Mideast. His decision to remove US troops from Iraq is the central cause of the mayhem that exists today throughout the region.

    • His “decision” you are referencing is the Status of Forces Agreement agreed to by Bush 2 as he was leaving office, not Obama. The U.S. left because Iraq would not grant US troops immunity. The Iraqi government wanted U.S. soldiers to be subject to criminal charges for their actions if it deemed charges were warranted. This was a non-starter so we pulled our troops out.

  3. Also, one must consider our incomprehensible and incoherent positions in the Middle East as a smoke screen for what is really happening. We justify all of our military actions in that area of the world as part of the Global War on Terror. Out of all of the campaigns we have waged since 9/11, how many had a direct correlation to the attacks? ONE…..for about 1-3 of the 14 and continuing years. The early period of the Afghanistan War when we toppled the Taliban harboring al Qaeda. I guess you could argue that we killed bin Laden in 2011, but that was in Pakistan.

    BUT perpetual war also reaps perpetual profits. Think about that. The Bush 2 administration had planned to invade Iraq even before 9/11. 9/11 was the opportunity they needed to justify invading Iraq. I’m not a 9/11 truther by any means. I think our war, at least early on in Afghanistan was a just war. But who stands to gain the most from all of our military involvements in the Middle East? Big Oil and the weapons manufacturers like Raytheon (based here in Woburn), Lockheed Martin, and all of the other companies. We provide weapons and money to the Israelis, Saudis, Yemenis, Qataris, Egyptians, etc. What do they do with that money? Turn around and buy US weapons. All of those countries air forces fly F-16s. The privatization of the military is big money. American military contractor companies are hired out by the US military and other countries in war zones. Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and BP all have leases on oil wells or exploratory rights in Iraq.

    Who keeps voting for and authorizing these conflicts? Why our politicians of course. Take a look at these graphs.

    In the second graph, you will notice that Koch Industries has most of its donations going to outside spending groups. Those would be GOP oriented SuperPACs. Who else are on these lists? You guessed it, Chevron, Exxon, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, etc., etc. The politicians getting donations from these companies not only vote for or call for war, but support increasing our already insanely bloated defense budget in exchange for cuts to social welfare programs, and they deny climate change. Unless our “national security” is dependent on the success of Big Oil and the Defense industry….I’m calling it like I see it; our perpetual “Global War on Terror” has turned into nothing more than a gigantic cash grab by corporations and politicians at the expense of the American taxpayers. The Afghani presented literally thanked the “American taxpayer” on his recent trip to the US! This is also happening on the domestic front as well with this pathetic excuse of a GOP Budget proposal.

    Obama is a Democrat and he got us embroiled in some these conflicts too you might say. But look at who was the Commander in Chief during the initial phases of these wars….1980s, Reagan…..1st Gulf War, Bush 1, 2nd Gulf War/War on Terror, Bush 2. All Republicans. Clinton did involve us in the Balkans, but that was a humanitarian catastrophe and our casualties and invovlement were kept to a minimum.

    If anyone questions the legitimacy of these wars, the GOP calls you unpatriotic and un American. At this point, our war in Vietnam looks like a righteous cause compared to this 15 year fiasco. Our blood, money, and Constitutional rights have been withered away to almost nothing. The only one that seems to matter to anyone is the 2nd amendment.

    Soon we will vote for whether we want a 2nd Clinton administration (who by the way, much like Obama, is a centrist and way too status quo to pull us get out of the Middle East) or a 3rd Bush administration. Is this real life? Our Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves! FDRs New Deal is on the brink of collapse due to the GOP constantly chipping away at it since the 1970s (and the Dems letting them). All for the sake of profits. Nothing to see here folks, move along, oh by the way, can we read your emails? No? Too late we already did.

    It is time that a third, progressive, populist party be formed whose only special interest is ensuring the safety, prosperity, and health of our nation and its citizens. Its becoming clearer and clearer each day that the constant distractions of mass media and materialist ideals has blinded us to the fact our country has strayed far from the path of what it was designed to be.

  4. We have been playing the double agent in the Middle East since at least the Reagan administration. In the 1980’s it was the Iran-Contra Affair while also supporting Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war. That ended in 1988. 2 years later our tanks are rolling across the Iraqi desert once’s Kuwait’s oil fields were placed in jeopardy in the Gulf War. Let’s not forget our covert support of the mujaheddin during the Soviet Union’s War in Afghanistan. The 2000s saw us again invade Iraq again and topple the Taliban in Afghanistan, many of whom were the same mujaheddin fighters we supplied Stinger missiles to during the Soviet-Afghan conflict. We are against Assad and back certain Syrian rebel groups we find palatable, but also against ISIS, so we tacitly approve Assad’s war on his own people. We consider the PKK a terrorist group, but support the Kurds in their fight against ISIS as well. (I would argue the Kurds are the toughest bunch out of all these people, not the Shias. The Kurds have been gassed, marginalized, and pushed to the brink of extinction, yet they are the most effective fighting force outside of Iran and the US in the Syrian-Iraq conflict). We are against Iran, except when fighting ISIS. We are fighting alongside the Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq, but are on the opposite side in the Sunni-Houthi conflict in Yemen.

    At what point do we look in the mirror and say, do we really want to keep fighting wars against ourselves?

    • And now Shiite militias are saying they will shoot down US planes in the Tirkit offensive. What are we doing? It’s time to cut and run, pivot towards our real threats, Russia and China, and let the CIA and FBI handle the terrorists.

  5. If BHO wants a different approach why did he attack Libya and ruin that country? Why is he helping the Saudis and the GCC bomb Yemen? One has to hope that he is smart enough to see that the assault on Yemen is a ploy to create a wedge between Iran and the U.S. This aggression is a last ditch effort to scuttle the Iran nuclear talks. The minority in the Gulf are the Sunnis. But they have controlled the region with their wealth and military alliance with the West. The Shia are the majority. 2. How do you explain the actions in Yemen. The former leader Saleh and part of the army aligned themselves with the Houti ( Shia) rebels and drove out the present leader Hadi. The main force fighting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was the Houti. Now the U.S. is assisting an attack on the people fighting Al Qaeda. We are now allies of Al Qaeda. 3. Apparently there are two Sunni Muslim cable tv channels. Al Jazera and Fox. Talk about a smear or vilification campaign against an ethnic group. The vitriol against the 100 million Shia is pronounced and relentless. Goebbels would be proud of Fox. Florida State has a fan website called Warchant. WSJ and Fox should be renamed. 4. The late Prime Minister Lee of Singapore spoke of how tough the Japanese were. You couldn’t roll over them. They would fight and resist. They were about 100 million but they were the strongest people in Asia. Are the Shia similar? They seem to have the best fighters in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

    • NC:

      1. Obama thinks with his heart. If you remember it was publicized there was going to be a massacre in eastern Libya when Ghadaffi was moving his forces over toward that area. As for helping the Saudis, I’m not sure that is correct. That seems to be a Sunni Arab show. I note people are writing that Iran supports the Houthis in Yemen but no one has shown any proof of that. It is being said as you note to scuttle any settlement. The war mongers in Israel and the Sunni Gulf States would have it that anything Shia is being helped by Iran. On one hand Iran has come to the settlement talks because its economy is in disarray and on the other its helping all these other people. Makes no sense except to portray them as murdering the West as some of our Congress people have noted when they blame Iran for the deaths of American service personnel during the Iraq war.

      2. Hadi was put in office after the long-term dictator in Yemen Saleh was attacked and forced out. The U.S. backed the removal. Saleh is behind the Houthi movement seeking to get his job back as you note. The U.S. should look at what is happening and get out. Notice how quickly the Sunni Arab States came together to fight the Houthis; the great danger in the area is IS but none of them want part of that fight. Why? IS and al Qaeda are Sunni. The Houthi were fighting al Qaeda and IS and stupidly we are on the other side. Don’t think the Shia states can’t figure out this is a Sunni – Shia war and the U.S. is in the middle of it working for the Sunnis.

      3. True – we are getting pro-war propaganda all the time. How can you not like Obama for standing up to it as well as he can but as you point out even his stance is confusing not knowing what side to be on. In Iraq we’re helping the Shia fight the Sunni IS; and in Yemen were helping the Sunni IS and al Qaeda against the Shis Houthi. Can’t win a war if you don’t know who your enemy is. Taht’s why our policy there has to change.

      4. Don’t know about the Shia. Those in those Iraq army ran before the Sunni IS in Iraq. I’m not convinced any of the Arab nations are great fighters; after all when you bring to the world the numbering system Arabic numerals what more do you have to do? By the way many people are offended by calling them Arabic numerals and feel they are being excluded. From now on you have to call them common numerals.

  6. Wow Jim, are you saying the WSJ isn’t on the level? You mean it’s not just the Boston Globe?

  7. WSJ is a Rupert Murdock owned paper. Second largest shareholder of that media company was Alween Bin Talaal, richest Saudi in the world. The guy behind the guy pulling the strings. He’s also the Largest shareholder of Citigroup amoungst other holdings. Saudi and their pals in Israel want Iran whacked. Some security reasons of course but mostly greed. What’s it worth to know the future? To know the exact moment a war on Iran begins causing the price of crude oil to soar. To invest at just the right moment AND to reduce global crude supplies from the third largest crude producer?

    • Jim:

      True. A killing will be made when we invade Iran and shut down their oil facilities. It may be a good idea to see what guys are buying into the Exxons of the world. Perhaps the Saudi continuing to keep the supply flowing and the prices down is because they are investing heavily knowing the market will explode when the attacks begin.